Hamster cell extracts that perform repair synthesis on covalently closed circular DNA containing pyrimidine dimers, were used to study the repair of apurinic/apyrimidinic (AP) sites and methoxyamine (MX)-modified AP sites. Plasmid molecules were heat-treated at pH 5 and incubated with MX when required. The amount of damage introduced ranged from 0.2 to 0.9 AP sites/kb. Extracts were prepared from the Chinese hamster ovary CHO-9 cell line and from its derivative, 43-3B clone which is mutated in the nucleotide excision repair (NER) ERCC1 gene. AP and MX-AP sites stimulated repair synthesis by CHO-9 cell extracts. The level of synthesis correlated with the number of lesions and was of similar magnitude to the repair stimulated by 4.3 u.v. photoproducts/kb. Repair of AP and MX-AP sites was faster than the repair of u.v. damage and was independent of ERCC1 gene product. The high level of repair replication was due to a very efficient and rapid incision of plasmids carrying AP or MX-AP sites, performed by abundant AP endonucleases present in the extract. The calculated average repair patch sizes were: 7 nucleotides per AP site; 10 nucleotides per MX-AP site; 28 nucleotides per (6-4) u.v. photoproduct or cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer. The data indicate that AP and MX-AP sites are very efficiently repaired by base-excision repair in mammalian cells and suggest that MX-AP sites may also be processed via alternative repair mechanisms.

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